How To Make a Game App

Find out what resources you need to make a game app. Discover important game engine features and learn about top game engines for beginners.

Gaming was always a popular hobby, but it was revolutionized by the introduction of gaming apps. Gaming apps were first popularized through the internet, with many of the earliest games originating on social media sites like Facebook. These early games served as a template for the gaming apps of today, which primarily run on smartphones. Part of the shift to smartphones has to do with advancements in technology. Not only are smartphones powerful enough to run gaming apps without being a strain on battery, but it is much easier to create the games in the first place.

With traditional video games, you need at least a small team and thousands of dollars to get started. Gaming apps are much less intensive. For more ambitious games, you still need a few other developers, but it is possible to make your own gaming app without any assistance. Listed below is a general overview of how to create a gaming app.

The Basics

Building a game app may not be as intensive as creating a traditional video game, but it still requires several items. First, you need a computer. Even if you are making a mobile app, you still need a computer to run your game engine. Some game engines are compatible with both PCs and Macs, while others only work for one or the other. Which one you use boils down to both personal preference as well as which platform you want to release your game on.

Along with a computer, you need a smartphone to test the app on. Ideally, you want to test your app across multiple phones. If you do not have access to other phones, consider asking your friends or family if you can use their devices. Some apps work differently depending on the type of phone, so the more devices you test on, the better.

You also need a developer account. A developer account lets you submit your app so others can purchase or download it. The cost for a developer account varies depending on the platform. If you want to release it on the iOS App Store, it costs $99 each year for an account, as of writing. The Android App Store is less expensive, only $25 each year.

Finally, you need a way to create either 2D or 3D art for your game assets. Some developers create their own art, while others hire an artist. There are also free and paid art assets online. While these are quicker to use, it makes it harder for your game to stand out and have a unique identity.

Costs of Developing a Game App

Calculating the cost of a game app is difficult because there is such a big variance. One factor is whether you design a 2D or 3D game. 3D games are typically more complex and require advanced graphics and animations, which increase the cost. A simple 2D game takes several months to develop and costs around $5,000 to $20,000. More advanced 2D games are closer to $50,000 to $100,000. 3D costs on average begin at $20,000 for smaller projects and go all the way to $250,000 for more advanced games.

A big consideration is how much of the development you can do on your own. If you can do the majority of the programming and art, your costs are significantly reduced. Hiring a developer costs around $50 to $100 an hour. Artists are a similar cost, but some may charge a flat rate instead depending on how much art you need.

Choosing a Game Engine

The majority of your work as a game developer involves your game engine. Your game engine is the tool you use to build your game. There are hundreds of different engines to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. There are a couple of features to look for in a game engine.

If you are just getting started with developing game apps, look for a beginner friendly engine. Beginner apps do not have as many options, but they are great for learning the basics. Many of these engines use game templates. Instead of creating everything from scratch, you use pre-existing assets to create a basic game. As you learn more about the development process, you get a better handle on how to create original content.

Another good feature for beginners is the option to drag and drop. This applies not only to graphics, but also to scripts. For example, you can drag a script onto a piece of terrain, making it so the player can perform a specific interaction.


If you are looking to get started with developing an app, GameSalad is an excellent engine to use. GameSalad is largely a drag and drop engine, with an emphasis on 2D games for both iOS and Android. The engine has a number of premade templates to choose from, as well as tutorials for newcomers who have never touched an engine before. There are two versions available, a basic account costing $17 a month, or a pro version for $25. As of writing, there is a 50 percent discount for students, teachers or military members.


Godot is designed for both 2D and 3D games, but it requires an existing knowledge of coding. Part of what makes Godot so popular is the number of coding languages it supports, including C++, C# and GDScript. The engine is frequently updated and the developers are known for their quality support and community management. It is a highly customizable engine with excellent organization options through the scene and node systems. Another reason it is such a popular engine is all the features are available for free.


BuildBox uses a combination of templates and drag and drop features. It has become popular among smaller game developers, with games such as Line Zen and Color Switch frequently at the top of the app store. It also has a clean, easy to use interface, avoiding any clutter even on complex projects. BuildBox is a pricier game engine, costing $99 each month, but a discounted price is available with a yearly subscription.